A contract for services between the Minnesota Land Trust and Fillmore County Soil & Water Conservation District was unanimously approved at the February 18 board meeting. The contract was for $5,000.
“It’s in our favor to implement educational outreach programs for the land trust. It’s something we’ve done in the past,” noted District Administrator Laura Christiansen. Conservation Technician Aaren Mathison heads up the programs for the county. An event was planned for 2020, but ultimately canceled due to the pandemic. Letters and the district website continue to be utilized for outreach. The district has hopes of hosting an in-person event this year.
“It’s about SWCD knowing landowners of Fillmore County,” added Christiansen when asked about the goal of the contract. “They’re based out of cities and don’t work with landowners directly. They’re using us for contact, particularly with easements. They’re looking to find land next to other state land to increase habitat.”
There are stipulations for such easements, however. As they are seeking areas of high biodiversity, only a percentage of areas can be used for agriculture, including no feedlots. The trust is targeting a large portion of Fillmore County, according to Christiansen.
The board also heard an update on windbreaks for the Tree Program. The program is headed up by Anne Koliha who works with landowners on development of windbreak plans, including restorations or establishment. Koliha also consults with Department of Natural Resources foresters. “It’s tough right now. We’re running out of trees,” noted Koliha.
District Conservation Practice Assistance contracts were approved for Darren Bornholdt, Holly Nelson, and Derek and Sarah Holtegaard.
Supervisor Kathyrn Tesmer briefly discussed the annual distribution of trees to the area’s fifth grade students. The district uses both trees that are available and those that are ordered specifically for the program. Supervisor Tim Gossman added that the trees are typically Norway Pine, the state tree. However, they are unavailable at this time. It was recommended that the district utilize Black Hills Spruce, due to high survivability rates. The cost to put the bundles together ranges from $250-350.
The board also approved a request by Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center for a habitat restoration project along Root River. “There’s a lot of erosion occurring on the stream banks,” noted Christiansen. “They’d like to fix that and also put in habitat along the river. They’re hoping to be an educational area for these projects.” There is no cost to SWCD to support the effort and the district will not manage the project.
“I like the idea. It’s a beautiful stretch,” noted Supervisor Dwayne Ostrem. “There was a similar project in Houston County. It was helped by Minnesota Corn Growers. It seems like an unlikely person to help, but they do grants for things like this.”
Fillmore County Commissioner Duane Bakke sought clarification on whether or not the request had been sent to others as well. “They approached me and I said I would bring it to the county board, but I didn’t want it to be considered competition on a grant.” Gossman, who is a member of Friends of the Root River, suggested the information be shared with that group as well. Timeline for project kickoff is late March or early April 2021.
Grant funding to assist with invasive weeds on the Root River corridor are also moving forward. Problems with the contractor last year led to a new contractor partnership this year. The final portion of the funding was received and the district applied for the next round, but was unsuccessful in securing it.
In other news, the board approved several payments. They include five payments of $400 each for Nitrogen Trial Plots related to a program for drinking water protection in southeast Minnesota, annual dues of $3,000 to Southeast SWCD Technical Support Joint Powers Board, and annual dues to Southeast Minnesota Association SWCD in the amount of $500. The board also approved the revisions on the Supervisor’s Handbook and an ongoing contract resolution with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is March 18, at 4:30 p.m., in the Conservation Building. At this time, the meeting is being held virtually via Zoom platform.